Friday, November 21, 2008

A bit of Obama

Campaign strategists seek to make the look and feel of their campaign unique and distinct from their competitors. With great luck, they will be so unique and distinct as to set new standards. There is no doubt that the Obama campaign set a high bar for campaign look and feel.

As a quick and compact brand identity, you just can't beat the "O" logo. This showed up everywhere in many many forms. My bet is that it is already one of the most recognizable visual identities on the planet for a logo only three years old. The design was no accident. The story is that it was produced in a short two weeks from start to finish by a firm with no prior experience in campaign work.

It will be interesting to see how other campaigns will steal from the Obama one. You would think there might be some shame in doing that but you would be wrong. Campaigns are ruthless in stealing whatever works. Check out the on the Russian-language or Hebrew versions of the campaign web sites of Benjamin Netanyahu, the conservative Likud leader running for prime minister of Israel, and you will see clones of the Obama site.

The other unique and distinct quality the Obama campaign had was the candidate's distinctive speaking style. He was up against another distinctive speaker, John McCain. McCain even branded his bus with his speaking style: The Straight Talk Express. In another campaign cycle, that phenomena would have attracted more comment. In this campaign cycle, that rhetorical device was swamped and overwhelmed in the face of the most effective orator in political generations. People will be writing and publishing articles and books on the Obama oratorical and rhetorical style, devices, origins, influences, accomplishments, effects and any other way you can analyze and break it down; count on filling a long shelf. But as a quick overview, this BBC article covers the essential qualities. I've mentioned before that Obama rhetorical style is musical; I'm not the only one who thought so:
He may have calmness, notes Mr Collins, but the range of his delivery - the way he alters his pace, tone and rhythm - is closer to song.

"His style of delivery is basically churchy, it's religious: the way he slides down some words and hits others - the intonation, the emphasis, the pauses and the silences," he explains.

"He is close to singing, just as preaching is close to singing. All writing is a rhythm of kinds and he brings it out, hits the tune. It's about the tune, not the lyrics, with Obama."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

OffalNews meta-post: Statistics

I don't like to post about this blog itself but here's something I have to pass on. . . .

My usual reading traffic coming through here is pretty regular. It drops on the weekends and spikes up in the weeks I post heavily. Typical is 150-200 pageloads from 75-100 daily visitors.; sometimes it drops and other times it spikes higher.

Then there is the herd that came through in the last couple of weeks. Thanks to a link from somewhere here to this post of mine, traffic has stratosphered! Last week, pageloads went through the roof at 1200 right up to over 6000 from 1200 up to 5000 visitors. Here's an image of what I'm talking about.

This is the kind of traffic I could get used to! Too bad it's starting to drop back to normal patterns.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The anti-Obama

After the release of this video comes this parody, complete with trademark Obama dark suit and opalescent tie. This crude video inverts a message of other-centered hope into a derivative, ego-centered gloat. The responses of the people I've seen watch it have ranged from groans to chuckles to horror. Was that the intent?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Why I blog

One of the finest magazines of all time, in my humble opinion, is The Atlantic*. One of their stable of impressive writers is Andrew Sullivan. His blog, The Daily Dish, is well worth a look. He covers a wide variety of topics in posts which are short, often witty and always to the point.

In the print edition of The Atlantic, he publishes a longer piece called Why I blog. Parts of this insightful article state:
A blog, therefore, bobs on the surface of the ocean but has its anchorage in waters deeper than those print media is technologically able to exploit. It disempowers the writer to that extent, of course. The blogger can get away with less and afford fewer pretensions of authority. He is—more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere, at its best, a conversation, rather than a production.


To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth. A blogger will notice this almost immediately upon starting. Some e-mailers, unsurprisingly, know more about a subject than the blogger does. They will send links, stories, and facts, challenging the blogger’s view of the world, sometimes outright refuting it, but more frequently adding context and nuance and complexity to an idea. The role of a blogger is not to defend against this but to embrace it. He is similar in this way to the host of a dinner party. He can provoke discussion or take a position, even passionately, but he also must create an atmosphere in which others want to participate.
Reading this has made me evaluate why I blog and how I blog. I have yet to come to firm conclusions but one thing I am going to try: I'm reopening the comments section (not anonymous, though) as an experiment. I'm not keen on overseeing flame wars so if that starts up then I'll be shutting down the comments again. And you should expect a site redesign within the next few months.

Welcome back to OffalNews.

*What other publication could trawl through their files and come up a previously unpublished Mark Twain story?

Last word on the campaign

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes we can

Enough said.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

US election overviews

Hang in there it's almost over. Today is US election day and the polls close in 9 hours or so. Then I'll be back focusing on more local issues. But until then. . .

This is a great overview of this US presidential election cycle. Although it gives short shrift to the Clinton efforts, it does a pretty good job of compressing 2 years into 15 minutes or so. Not quite as gripping but still worthwhile is this timeline of significant campaign events.

Will you be watching the election coverage this evening? I thought so.

Have not no more (update)

The big news nationally is not that NL will not be receiving Equalization for the next two years, it's that Ontario will be. Although this is the first time in 51 years that Ontario will be a recipient, it came close about 20 years ago when oil prices surged and Alberta's revenues soared. Then the formula used to allocate equalization payments was changed to exclude that possibility. As the Globe notes:
It's important to note, however, that the economy of Canada's most-populous province has varied strengths – natural resources, high-tech, biotech, financial services, a highly skilled work force and, yes, even manufacturing – that are the envy of many jurisdictions. Ontario is poor only in comparison with those provinces wallowing in higher natural-resource revenues.
A further explanation of what this all means comes from one of the national giants of influence and thought on the subject of fiscal federalism Thomas Courchene, professor of economic and financial policy at the Queen's University School of Policy Studies. You can find it at the Globe and Mail. The upshot is that:
If we are serious about living up to the principles embedded in the equalization section of the Constitution, then it seems inevitable to me that we have to contemplate bringing the federal-provincial transfers for health, welfare and post-secondary education into the ambit of equalization. Since we are now income testing many key programs – old age security, guaranteed income supplements, child tax benefits, etc. – why not consider “revenue-testing” federal-provincial
cash transfers to the provinces?

Yes we carve

In the combined spirit of the US federal election and Halloween, check out Yes We Carve.

(t/h @ Nottawa)

Have not no more

I don't know what it says when a politician turns what is, in effect, a guaranteed minimum income program program for provinces into yet another point of ego. Except, of course, when everything is a point of ego and/or ego transference.

Nottawa has the cleanest and clearest call on the matter.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Reason #234 to attend the next Liberal convention

According to the Globe and Mail, a series of studies by researchers at the University of Rochester has revealed that men are far more attracted to women in red clothing or surrounded by red accessories than females who sport other colours.

Last day

Four years after the last US presidential campaign, and four years since the start of this presidential campaign, it all comes to an end tomorrow. And it's about time. No country in the world conducts campaigns on this scale of time and money. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing but one thing I do know, it makes for epic opera rather than TV movies of the week.

I expect Obama to win. My main source of US election data confirms it; ahead by 7% so no tension there. My source of electoral tension comes from the a sub-presidential race I've been following, the Minnesota senate seat featuring Al Franken (of Al Franken Decade SNL fame). He's running against a Republican incumbent who has adopted "The Hope Express" slogan trying to leech from Obama. While Franken is ahead by a nose (2.5%), the outcome is far from certain.

In the last 24 hours, both Obama and McCain are in hyperkinetic mode, logging thousands of miles in the hope of last minute vote changing. For McCain, staring defeat in the face, this is his swansong and he's making the best of it with tact and grace. For Obama, there's more at stake and he's handing himself accordingly.

Why do people vote the way they do? It beats the hell out of me. There's not much science to it that I can see although science has been working on it. There are articles citing factors such as voter support for candidates who look like them and other reports analyzing different campaign strategies but there is no magic bullet. If there was then governments would never change and candidates would never lose. Show me someone with a sure-fire electoral strategy and I'll show you a fraud.

A side story: I've been fascinated to see how the web has affected this campaign cycle in ways both great and small. Looking for a customized Obama poster or lawn sign or other sign of your very own? They are now just a mouse click away. Much of the huge volume of donations to Obama were harvested by his very effective and attractive web site. You will see the web play an increasingly central role in future campaigns bother in the US and locally.

A lot of people have invested a lot of hopes and dreams in the junior senator from Illinois. And the world conditions which were in place when he announced his candidacy almost 24 months ago have been upended in the last 24 days. I'm sure a lot of his plans for his first 100 days will have to be scrapped and he'll have to rethink and start over. I'm pretty sure he will be up for it.

The next four to eight years will be worth watching.